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Research Awards and Grants (February 2024)

Each month College of Natural Resources faculty receive awards and grants from various federal, state, and nongovernmental agencies in support of their research. This report recognizes the faculty who received funding in February 2024.

Field Evaluation of Condensed Tannins as a White-Tailed Deer Repellent for Soybeans and Cotton

  • PI: DePerno, Christopher
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Soybean Producers Association, Inc.
  • Awarded Amount: $30,000 
  • Abstract:  Evaluate condensed tannins as a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) repellent.  This will be a field-based project.  White-tailed deer use will be established in multiple soybean and cotton fields throughout North Carolina.  Once baseline data are established, the treatment (condensed tannins) will be applied to sections of the field.  White-tailed deer use of the field will be evaluated post treatment.

Sport for Social Change in South Africa

  • PI: Edwards, Michael
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Department of State
  • Awarded Amount: $121,242 
  • Abstract:  This project will create and implement an exchange program between the United States and South Africa. The reciprocal exchange will employ sport to address social change in underserved youth by developing leadership skills, enhancing academic success, and promoting tolerance and respect for diversity. This project will implement a program designed to achieve its goals by impacting youth, coaches, and/or sports administrators in South Africa. The overall goals of the ENVEST programs are: 1. Harness the power of sport as a teaching tool to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and people of Sub-Saharan Africa; 2. Provide opportunities for sport coaches, administrators, and youth to learn and develop in ways that will benefit their home communities; 3. Engage multiple groups in creating action plans around clearly identified social issues; 4. Create an ongoing dialogue and open lines of communication between all participants to promote the exchange of ideas before, during, and after… 

Membership in Consortium on Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI), Full Member

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Procter & Gamble Company
  • Amount Awarded: $66,000 
  • Abstract: The purpose of the Consortium on Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI) is to develop fundamental and applied research on the use of alternative and sustainable fibers for the manufacturing of market pulp, hygiene products and nonwovens. The idea for SAFI has grown out of societal needs for alternative yet sustainable materials. SAFI will study the potential of alternative fibers based on technical (performance), sustainable and economic principles.

Scholarly Review Article on Biodegradability of Cellulose Fibers

  • PI: Hubbe, Martin
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Cotton, Inc.
  • Awarded Amount: $25,000 
  • Abstract: The goal of this project is to provide a definitive scholarly review article that will fill an important void in the literature.  Specifically, there is a need for a comprehensive review article focusing on the biodegradability of cellulose, with emphasis on seawater biodegradation and soil biodegradation.  The scope will have a primary focus on natural cellulose fibers, especially cotton.

Advancing the National Bioeconomy through Regional Sun Grant Centers: Molecular Recognition as a Method to Sustainably Separate a High-Value Lignan from White Oak

  • PI: Jameel, Hasan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: USDA – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
  • Awarded Amount: $65,519 
  • Abstract:  We propose a process of extracting SIIS from WOS in an acidic ethanol/aqueous solution prior to pretreating for biofuel production. SIIS will be selectively recovered from the aqueous stream using cyclodextrin (CD)-functionalized particles, where CD forms a host-guest complex with lignan dimers. SIIS can also be enzymatically generated from diverse feedstocks using lignin-derived sinapic acid or syringaldehyde, so isolating the dimer product is of broad interest.

Cellulose Allomorphs and Crystallinity-Controlled Fibers and Packaging Substrates

  • PI: Pal, Lokendra
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Wrigley Company (Mars, Inc)
  • Amount Awarded: $150,000 
  • Abstract: Research on alternative fibers and their derivatives is not only needed for the ecological advantage and low-cost solutions, but also to manipulate intensive and extensive fiber properties to enhance barrier properties. The intensive properties are related to cellulose microfibril orientation, cellulose crystallinity, and cellulose structure, while the extensive relate to fiber length, levels of lignin, and retained extractives. To enhance the desired barrier properties of the cellulose fibers, we intend to tune the crystallinity and thermochemically generate a variety of polymorphs characterized by differences in density and accessibility of cellulose chains.

Development of Generic Pulp and Paper Models

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Energy (DOE)
  • Awarded Amount: $37,500 
  • Abstract: “Use FisherSolve software to develop a detailed mass, energy, and cost balance of two generic pulp and paper mills in the united states (integrated mill using unbleached pulp, full recycle mill).
    Work with INL researchers to develop models for these generic plants using WinGEMS, Aspen Plus, and Aspen HYSYS (models include: chemical recycle process, lime kiln, steam production and use).
    Leverage existing knowledge of the pulp and paper industry to develop reasonable solutions for pulp and paper decarbonization.
    Assist INL researchers as required with model building and analysis.”

Resilience for Waterfront Infrastructure (REWIRE)

  • PI: Petras, Vaclav
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Awarded Amount: $84,201 
  • Abstract: “Most of the world’s coastlines and natural coastal habitats are vulnerable to loss from erosion due to wave action, flooding, and sea-level rise. The resulting land loss and ecological degradation are consequences of human activities and natural environment changes. During phase I, Natrx developed a novel framework named Resilience for Waterfront Infrastructure (REWIRE), which integrated high-resolution satellite imagery and artificial intelligence to scalably and efficiently quantify local hydrodynamics and erosive conditions. The new information is used to prescribe appropriate nature-based solutions per local needs.

    This phase of the project aims to build upon the novel workflow developed in phase I and extend its application to establish a systematic approach to quantify carbon stock in coastal wetlands. Such developments aim to address challenges inhibiting restoration and open financing channels for additional restoration through sustainable business models focusing on the value provided by coastal habitats.

Quantifying the Contribution of Small and Highly Dynamic Water Bodies to Methane Emissions

  • PI: Tulbure, Mirela
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)
  • Awarded Amount: $196,769 
  • Abstract: Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 28 times higher than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time horizon. The importance of CH4 on a global scale is illustrated by the recent Global Methane Pledge, signed by 103 countries during COP26. Atmospheric concentrations of CH4 have been increasing in recent years. The mechanisms driving recent increases are unclear and could include increased anthropogenic emissions from natural gas extraction, increased natural emissions and decreased atmospheric oxidative capacity, or a combination of all three. Inland aquatic ecosystems are important sources of methane and could be driving part of increased natural emissions. Emissions from inland waters have been identified as a key gap in understanding the global CH budget.

Towards Global Flooding Dynamics in Near Real-time: A Multi-sensor Fusion Approach Based on Public Domain Time-series of Optical and Radar Data

  • PI: Tulbure, Mirela
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)
  • Awarded Amount: $187,665 
  • Abstract: Spatiotemporal quantification of surface water and flooding is essential for research on hydrological cycles. Satellite remote sensing is the only means of monitoring these dynamics across vast areas and over time. Several regional to global surface water data sets have been developed using optical time-series, either from MODIS-type sensors with coarse spatial resolution but daily frequency or based on the entire Landsat archive. Despite its high spatial resolution, the 16-day repeat frequency of Landsat means that short-lived hazardous flooding and the maximum extent of large floods are likely missed. Meanwhile, spatially coarser MODIS-type sensors may miss small water bodies and floods entirely. In addition, two limitations when mapping inundation with optical data have been detecting water under vegetation and cloud obscuration, which often coincides with floods. Both issues can be overcome by fusing multiple optical with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, taking advantage of complementary observation.